Exercise How To: Standing Row


Recently I had a knot just under the superior border of my scapula that was causing me quite a bit of pain. I went to the massage therapist to see if he could work it out and get me feeling back to my normal self. An hour later I walked (more like limped) out of the room  feeling sick to my stomach. I had been very conscious of my hydration levels that day as well as my antioxidants trying to avoid the nauseousness I was  then experiencing. Upon paying for the hour of torture, my friend, my daughter and I  left the room. My friend looked over at me and asked, “Are you okay?”. I thought about it for a few seconds and then softly replied, “There’s not very many people in this world that can kick my ass, but oh my hell, he just kicked my ass.” Of course my friend (who granted, I have put through the workout ringer) found that comment rather funny. I, on the other hand,  did not.

One of the things the master torturer noticed while I whimpered on the table was that my shoulders are slightly pronated. For those of you who don’t speak my trainer mumbo jumbo, that means they are  slightly rounded. He pointed out that  I had some  nicely developed back muscles but that my chest and anterior shoulders were slightly stronger, therefore pulling my shoulders forward…no good.

On a side note, I pay meticulous attention to my weight lifting workouts making sure that the weight I’m lifting with opposing muscles stays about the same, therefore avoiding a muscle imbalance and the undesirable implications that come with them. To be laying there on that table being told that I had not succeeded was irritating in and of itself, add to it the fact that he was gouging my  guts with his elbow, and to say that I was annoyed is the understatement of the year. However, I have found that when someone from a different vantage point than you makes an observation, and points it out to you (since you can’t see it from your vantage point), you’d best put your pride down, check your ego at the door and listen up.

Since then I’ve found myself pulling my shoulders back almost  constantly. It hurts like hell…I’m hoping that someday (really soon) it won’t hurt as much. I skipped my workouts last week altogether. No cardio or weights, just stretching and using the foam roller. I am feeling almost sub human and hope to be back up to par by the end of the week. When I finally get to hit the weights again, I’ll be doing exercises for scapula retraction to try and get these Quasimodo shoulders of mine back where they belong.

When looking at people’s posture, one of the most prominent features among Americans is rounded or slouched shoulders. I’m assuming (but I’m thinking this is a fairly safe assumption) that  at least the vast majority of us have no  desire to actually look like the famous Hunchback of Notre Dame, in which case the standing row is an excellent choice!

The standing row can be done with a resistance band or the cables. There are  multiple  muscles working when performing a standing row, they are:

  • Rhomboids
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Trapezius
  • Teres Major
  • Posterior Deltoid
  • Infraspinatus
  • Biceps Brachii

Proper form is critical to avoid injury. Let’s go through a step by step guide on how to perform a standing row using a resistance band correctly.

Standing Row

  1. Wrap the resistance band around a fixed object that allows the band to be stable at mid-torso level (At the gym, I use a pole to wrap it around, at home I use a doorway to secure it in). Now, take a step or two back and  slightly bend your knees. Your arms should be fully extended and you should be holding the band handles lightly.
  2. Your chest should be high and your shoulders should be back (think about squeezing your shoulder blades together). With your palms facing each other, pull the band back toward your stomach. Keep your elbows in nice and tight to your sides,  and squeeze  your shoulder blades even tighter.
  3. Slowly return your arms to the starting position, making sure that your shoulders do not retract and slouch  forward. Repeat 10 to 15 times for 2 to 3 sets.
  4. You’ll notice in the picture above that the woman is slightly squatted. This is an awesome way to incorporate some more muscle fiber and burn more calories. It’s an isometric contraction that the glutes, hamstrings and quads all have to hold which means you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck. The squatted cable row is actually my all time favorite back exercise, partially because it’s hard and partially because it’s awesome.  🙂

So there ya have it, a standing row to combat Quasi shoulders…oh, and I should mention that when your posture is nice and tall (like it should be) you’ll look thinner and have less headaches. Not a bad gig, huh?   🙂

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